Preston Frazier offers his year-ending thoughts on the best reissues and box sets from 2016, adding two special honorable mentions along the way …
No. 5: PINK FLOYD, THE EARLY YEARS 1967-1972 (PROG): Well before Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd had already proved its meddle. The Early Years 1967-1972 proves the obvious. Whether going from the deliciously disturbed “Arnold Layne” to “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” to “Take Off,” talent abounds. Original guitarist Syd Barrett had a strange pop sensibility, while the late Richard Wright boasted a keen sense of melody. Guitarist David Gilmour had chops for days and Roger Waters, a twisted sense of reality. Their songs are enduring. Check out “The Riot Scene” and “Point Me at the Sky.”
No. 4: KING CRIMSON, RADICAL ACTION TO UNSEAT THE HOLD OF MONKEY MIND (PROG): You’d think with two live albums in as many years, the prog giants King Crimson would be treading water. Yet, the next entry on this list of Best Reissues and Box Sets breathes life into old KC classics like “21st Century Schizoid Man,” and fire into new songs like “Suitable Grounds for the Blues.” Despite the size of the modern-day Crimson, the songs never sound labored or overblown. The concept of the three-drummer front line seems as natural as it is powerful, proving again that Robert Fripp is a genius.
No. 3 STEVIE NICKS, BELLA DONNA (POP/ROCK): Sure, you know and love these songs. This reissue gives you a gorgeously remixed and remastered album, with demos and unreleased rarities from the original recording session. Stevie Nicks takes it even further with the only live recording from her two-week solo tour. The live version of “Gold and Braid” is worth the price of the three-disc set alone, but the unreleased version of “The Dealer” is “24 Karat Gold.”
No. 2: KATE BUSH, BEFORE THE DAWN (POP/ROCK): You want greatest hits from Kate Bush’s 2015 London residency? Check out Disc One, which opens with a blazing version of the Red Shoes’ song “Lilly” and includes the always-rousing “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).” Disc 2 and 3 provide a mixture of theater and prog rock with the performance of “The Ninth Wave.” Songs like “King of the Mountain” jump out of the speakers with an urgency which is intoxicating. Part of the power is supplied by Bush’s band, which features Omar Hakim on drums, David Rhodes on guitar and Jon Carin on keyboards, among others. The real spark is Kate Bush herself, whose intensity and craft have intensified over the years.
No. 1: DAVID LINDLEY, MR. DAVE (ROOTS): Originally released only on vinyl in 1985, Mr. Dave is David Lindley’s most conventional album. This compact disc-only American reissue adds nothing to the original, but it’s hard to improve on perfection. Lindley engages fellow Jackson Browne cohorts Danny Kortchmar and Greg Ladanyi as co-producers. The No. 1 entry on this list of Best Reissues and Box Sets also finds Lindley calling on bass legends in Phil Chen (“Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”), Jorge Calderon (“Enjoy Every Sandwich”) and drummer Rick Morotta (Steely Dan’s “Peg”). The result is a weird and wonderful mix of pop, reggae and rock. “Hands Like a Man” and “Hearts on Fire” are insane rock songs. “Truly Do,” which features Bob Dylan and Don Henley’s late drummer Ian Wallace, may well be the best ’80s rock song you’ve never heard – and the electric guitar solo by Lindley will make you angry that it took 30 years to get this album to be released in the U.S.A.
BOB DYLAN, THE REAL ROYAL ALBERT HALL 1966 CONCERT (FOLK/ROCK): The classic concert when Bob Dylan went electric. Lovingly restored, this album shows his power as both a performer and arranger. It’s a must own for any Dylan fan, any fan of the Band and any fan of the history of rock music. “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat” rages.
FLEETWOOD MAC, MIRAGE (POP/ROCK): Given the release of two Stevie Nicks solo albums in deluxe format, Mirage might go over looked. It shouldn’t. The original album was great, though unjurly overlooked because it was no Tusk or Rumours. The reissue gives you a remastered version, wonderful outtakes and – if you spring for the super-deluxe version – a great live set from their very short tour. Rediscover songs like “Wish You Were Here,” “Book of Love” and the overlooked Nicks classic, “That’s Alright.”
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